COLUMBIA, Missouri — Standing in an airplane hangar in the mid-autumn chill awaiting the arrival of President Donald Trump, Joan Philpott said she was angry and scared. Only Trump, she said, can solve the problems she worries most about.
“He wants to protect this country, and he wants to keep it safe, and he wants to keep it free of invaders and the caravan and everything else that’s going on,” said Philpott, 69, a retired respiratory therapist.
Philpott was one of thousands of women who braved a drizzle for hours to have the chance to cheer Trump at a rally here Thursday. While political strategists and public opinion experts agree that Trump’s greatest electoral weakness is among female voters, here in Columbia and places like it, the president enjoys a herolike status among women who say he is fighting to preserve a way of life threatened by an increasingly liberal Democratic Party.
“He understands why we’re angry,” Philpott said, “and he wants to fix it.”
As Republican candidates battle to keep their congressional majorities in the midterm elections Tuesday, Trump is crisscrossing the country to deliver a closing argument meant to acknowledge — and in many cases stoke — women’s anxieties. At rally after rally, he has said that women “want security,” warning of encroaching immigrants, rising crime and a looming economic downturn if Democrats gain power.
Some of Trump’s female backers initially supported him only reluctantly or do so now despite reservations about his bawdy language and erratic behavior. But they shared in his victory after the bitter and partisan battle over the confirmation of Justice Brett Kavanaugh. And many believe the president when he reminds them during each of his hourlong pep rallies that the world they know — largely Christian, conservative and white — is at stake Tuesday.
“Honestly, I’m nervous about it,” Amy Kremer, a Tea Party activist and the co-founder of the Women for Trump PAC, said of the election, which is widely viewed as a referendum on Trump. “I’ve never seen this energy and momentum for a midterm, but also the polls weren’t correct in 2016.”
Kremer said she and the other women in her Atlanta- area social circle “love” Trump, adding, “We like when somebody promises to do something and they follow through on it.”
But that warmth toward the president is decidedly a minority view among women around the country, and Republican officials fret privately that Trump’s harder-edged messages will alienate the women the party needs to preserve vital seats.
Women disproportionately opposed Trump’s election two years ago and have turned against him in even greater numbers since.
Anna Greenberg of the Democratic polling firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner said Trump’s dark view of immigration was likely to repel suburban and educated women.
Yet days before the midterm elections, women are streaming into the president’s campaign events wearing bedazzled hats and T-shirts proclaiming Trump’s greatness. In between the selections from the musical “Cats,” the Celine Dion ballads and the Elton John classics that fill out the president’s campaign soundtrack, they hoist hot-pink “Women for Trump” signs as they balance babies on their hips. And they scoff at the suggestion that Trump — who has been accused of sexual assault and boasted graphically that he could do “anything” with women — has a problem with them.